Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sonic Underground Episodes #01-05

Sonic Underground
Episodes #01-05

The year was 1999 and Sega, gearing up for the release of their new console the Dreamcast, were keen to rekindle interest in their IP’s. Their previous console theSaturn hadn’t done as well as they had hoped, this was mostly down to the powerhouse release of Sony’s Playstation but I think it’s safe to assume that the lack of Sonic titles on the console hurt it’s popularity also. In fact, Sonic only appeared in three titles over the course of the titles lifespan, two of which were simply ports of megadrive games (the only new title being the frankly disappointing racing spinoff Sonic R). It was a mistake Sega did not want to make twice.
So, ahead of the consoles release, Sega commissioned DIC to create a new series based on the blue hedgehog. The result was something nobody would have expected.

Sonic Underground took the Sonic series in a radical new direction, casting Sonic as a prince and giving him siblings, Sonia, a spoilt rich girl and Manic, a street wise pickpocket. The triplets were the children of Queen Aleena who has been forced to abdicate the throne and go on the run after Robotnik came to power. She abandons the children on doorsteps and flees. In their teenage years the three hedgehogs meet up, realise they are siblings and learn that the amulets they wear around their necks can be used to summon magical musical instruments that they can use as weapons.

Yeah it’s pretty weird.

Each episode of the series follows a pretty basic formula, Robotnik hatches his scheme of the week and sends his bounty hunters Sleet (a wily coyote, see what they did there?) and Dingo (A…well..a dingo, who for some unexplained reason has the ability to shape shift into any form sleet chooses) to implement the plan. The three hedgehogs turn up and save the day. Every episode also features a brief Song performed by the three hedgehogs.

The series was pretty poorly received among the fans, many not liking the new direction the creators took the series. It’s pretty easy to see why, making sonic a prince is just weird and I can’t imagine how they came up with it.
Despite the premise however the show has a lot of redeeming features. For one it’s the only one of the three series to feature Knuckles (albeit at the cost of excluding tails who makes no appearances in the series) and the new characters created for the show are all pretty fun. Even the songs are pretty decent on occasion.

So join me as I review all forty episodes of the series. It’ll be fun.

Ep01: Beginnings (Origins, part 1)
Beginnings serves as little more than a trip down exposition alley, giving us the backstory on why Aleena gave up her children while giving some info on the classing lifestyles of the three siblings.
We get to see Manic learn to steal, Sonic learning to master his speed and sonia her acrobatic abilities.
We’re also given introductions to Robotnik, Sleet, Dingo and Bartelby and a little explanation of their roles in the series.
There’s a cameo from King Acorn as a statue in the opening montage but he’s never mentioned again in the series, it actually opens a bit of a plothole, if Sonic and co are the children of the Queen, is king Acorn their father? Hrm…
That aside, this is a decent intro to the series though the three meeting in a club a few minutes from the end of the episode is a pretty cheap way to get the cast together.

Song: Some day
A pretty cheesy intro to the songs of the series, a naff pop rock song in which all three Sonic siblings sing about how they’ll meet up one day. All three of them are apparently singing at the same time in all their various locations.

Ep02: Getting to know you (Origins, part 2)
The three siblings get to know a little more about each other as Robotnik starts his campaign to stop them.
Initially there’s slight conflict between them as Sonia learns of Manic’s past profession. Not as much is made of this clash as perhaps there should be though and all issues seem to be dropped pretty quickly.
The three then seek out training from Gondar, a Hercules-a-like character who helps them master their skills.
They also pay a visit to a monastery where they are given the powers to use their magical instruments.
It’s not a great episode by any means but there’s still a sense that the scene is still being set. 

Song: Working together in harmony
A pretty good little tune, flavours of bebop with 50’s rock and roll harmonies. Plus, dancing monks. Good times.

Ep03: Harmony or something (Origins, part 3)
The three continue their training, battling dragons and the like (yeah I dunno) before finally taking the fight to Robotnik who has kidnapped the oracle.
This episode more than the last two finally seems to get the tone of the show more or less spot on. It’s a pretty straight forward adventure episode but with enough jokes (a couple of pretty decent ones from manic in particular) to keep it enjoyable.
At the end the hedgehogs gain the ability to use their powers whenever they wish which seems more like an escape for the writers than the actual characters, meaning they no longer need to be together for them to work.

Song: We’re all in this together
Not a great son but one that’s quite annoyingly catchy. An 80’s sounding pop track with lots of electronic drums and the like. One listen and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.

Ep04: Wedding bell blues
The episode which sees the series really hit its stride, Wedding Bell blues sees robotnik making a public declaration that he will marry Queen Aleena. Sonic and co crash the ceremony knowing it to be a trap but not willing to risk their mothers safety if it turns out to be true.
What really works about this episode is the humour. Again Manic shines as the main comic relief of the series and is that rarest of things, a comic relief character who’s actually funny.
His kleptomania is also explored for the first time as sonic continually tells him to stop stealing throughout the episode only to have his stolen goods help them in a battle later on.
This is a great episode and one of the most popular of the series, it regularly turns up on cheap dvd releases and rightly so, it’s a good one.

Song: When tomorrow comes
A pretty bland song that doesn’t even have much to do with the actual plot of the episode. Disappointing considering the quality of the episode.

Ep05: To catch a Queen
The hedgehogs attempt to rescue Argus, Queen Aleena’s former captain of the guard. Unfortunately by the time they get to him he has been roboticized.
Luckily, the siblings reveal that their instruments canreverse the process at least mentally, giving Argus back his personality.
The gang then attempt to stop sleet and dingo from finding the meeting spot Argus had arranged with the queen.
This is another decent episode though it doesn’t have the same appeal as the last one. There are still a scattering of good jokes but the whole roboticization element makes it feel a little too much like satAM.

Song: The 411
Another annoyingly catchy one. Poppy and jumpy and just generally a fun little track. You’ll find youself struggling not to join in with the nah nah nahs in the chorus.

"If you enjoyed this review, why not check out the others in the series?"
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-25) (26-30) (31-35) (36-40)

"Or  check out these reviews of the other Sonic series'"
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-25) (26-30) (31-35) (36-40) (41-45) (46-50) (55-60) (61-65) (Xmas Blast)
Sonic the Hedgehog
(01-05) (06-10) (11-15) (16-20) (21-26

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